|Staff, Eastern Group Publications
August 2, 2005 – Hispanic women who immigrate to the United States are lighting up cigarettes at higher rates than their female counterparts in Spanish-speaking countries, while Hispanic men’s smoking rates remain unchanged, according to a new systematic review of studies by Marc and Bethel Schenker.
The review provides an overview of 11 studies surveying a total of 26,611 predominantly Mexican men and women. Nine studies revealed a significant positive association between acculturation and current smoking status, with smoking rates more than doubling from 11 percent to 25.1 percent in one such study.
While the reasons for this relationship are unclear, the study suggests that it is likely due to cultural influences that promote smoking as glamorous and socially acceptable. This explanation accounts for the apparent link between acculturation to the United States and higher smoking rates, according to recent studies. Researchers define acculturation as changes in values, attitudes and behavior in individuals as a result of continuous interaction with people of different ethnic groups.
“Men in Mexico are pretty independent and their culture facilitates their independence,” said Marc Schenker of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine Review. “When men come to the U.S., you don’t see a dramatic change. But women often assert their independence. Smoking may also be a status issue in that it shows sophistication and an income level that can afford cigarettes.”
Although Dr. Norman H. Edelman says these findings are alarming, he is not surprised.
“When you acculturate, you pick up the bad habits of a culture along with the good ones,” Edelman says.
“Cultures who are traditionally thin come to the U.S. and get fat. People who don’t traditionally smoke start smoking. It’s yet another health threat that women will have to deal with.”
To address this issue, the co-authors of the review study recommend that new strategies must be implemented to specifically deter Hispanic women from the dangers of smoking.
“Gender-specific and immigrant-specific approaches are necessary to halt the increase in smoking among Hispanics before it begins,” the review authors conclude.
This article originally appeared on the website of Eastern Group Publications and appears here with permission through special arrangement via New California Media.